Opinion and Editorial

First Person: Dark crimes? Give me a break!

Allan Jacob (Senior Editor)
allan@khaleejtimes.com Filed on April 9, 2021

The new informal and abnormal way of living and working is throwing up some dark and troubling secrets that were latent before the virus emerged in 2020.

If life were a streaming mystery thriller with tragic consequences, this could be it. The course of the pandemic has perplexed health experts. People live in fear of the tiny serial killer that picks and chooses its victims as it mutates with ease.

To comprehend what was happening in the early days of the crisis, I remember watching Contagion, the 2011 Steven Soderbergh medical thriller with a stellar cast led by Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet. I haven’t yet recovered from the experience like millions of others who have watched the Hollywood movie.

The new informal and abnormal way of living and working is throwing up some dark and troubling secrets that were latent before the virus emerged in 2020. Perhaps it’s the end of the age of innocence, with real and imaginary worlds and secrets converging and conspiring to keep people apart as they seek the truth about the current crisis.

The worst in people and animals is out (it’s a zoonotic virus), with the virus spreading faster as deadlier strains emerge. I’ve taken refuge in mystery series and thrillers streaming on Netflix or Amazon Prime. These have hit my nerves, or is it my heart? There’s an inexplicable fear that keeps rising; an emptiness, a vacuum that I experience.

Last year, I even thought the gleaming city of Dubai was taken over by zombies during night curfew at the height of the pandemic. I remember driving home from work after taking the requisite permissions from the authorities. I was alone on the roads with not a soul or vehicle in sight. The lights were blazing, the road inviting; the coronavirus waiting as my feet pressed frantically on the accelerator pedal.

At home, I would wake up at nights with a start. Was I was gasping for breath? I would check if I’d been sweating profusely. Nothing. Other symptoms of heart trouble and impending doom? None.

The silence of those nights was unnerving and gave me the creeps, but I was okay after just one conversation with the missus at 3am. Those thrillers streaming at home were keeping me awake or making me sleep fitfully, she explained. Mystery solved, I thought.

Last week, however, I couldn’t go back to sleep after one of those episodes. “How do I get out of here if things go bad again?” I wondered as I tossed and turned on the bed. “You shouldn’t have watched that Netflix show without me…the crime thriller, Marcella,” said the missus. “I couldn’t deal with it,” I protested. “We watched it together, remember?” She wasn’t convinced and launched into a round of questioning in hushed tones. “So, was it The Sinner…without me?”

Yeah, the same one in which a possessed Jessica Biel stabs a doctor seven times for no explicable reason. Bill Pullman investigates and the probe has left me breathless and sleepless. I haven’t got past the early euphoria of watching the gory crimes being played out. I didn’t have the heart for more. “You’re chicken. Men are weak. Go watch some Poirot with your son,” said the wife, so I did.

Murders are neatly planned and executed in Agatha Christie’s masterpieces and David Suchet plays the Belgian (not French) detective with a certain flair which modern streaming detectives like Pullman lack. My son loves Poirot but I have lost interest in the series as they are too long and patience is not my virtue. I also managed to watch Irul, with my wife of course and realised it didn’t live up to its name (irul is darkness in Malayalam).

As a family, we have now settled into watching the Father Brown series starring Mark Williams who brings a spiritual element into solving murders — confession and conviction are his forte. Nice and divine. Indeed, we need divine intervention during the pandemic. As for Poirot, I listen to the melancholic TV soundtrack on my phone which sets me up for another day at the office. Eight billion people like me have masked roles to play. But, who knows, Soderbergh could make a movie or streaming series out of my life when this is over.



Allan Jacob

A news junkie with an abiding interest in foreign affairs. I'm a keen follower and learner of the media and how it will pan out in the future when the common man and woman will themselves be journalists and not just sources of information. Lead a team of bright journalists who are driving the change and have their feet on the ground.

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